The Beast of Shaamver by Ilias Stroulias

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The Beast of Shaamver by Ilias Stroulias
Illustration by Sue Babcock

Inside a castle’s prison yard, in a town far from Shaamver, Simon kicked the thick mud with his heavy boots, the smell of wet soil filling his nostrils. Only partial accounts of what happened in Shaamver had reached his ears; he didn’t need more. Everything was in the eyes of those who had escaped. His carved wooden pipe wouldn’t light. He cursed the wet tobacco. His gaze turned to the sky; the clouds were loaded, but the sun pierced through. It was almost time.

As head executioner, Simon had to brush with the vilest devil-spawn fostered upon mankind. Fortunately, he never saw any of them twice. Today the beast herself was thrown at him.

The heavy wooden door screeched open. She was the first one out, her glance racing in an attempt to take in everything. Her smooth skin reflected what rays of light the rain let through. Pleading eyes met Simon’s; he felt torn. Is she really the beast? Simon’s heart had turned to stone long ago, but this was different; something in him told him so.  The harsh wind blew her black hair. She turned her face in the opposite direction. In her hands was a thick grey cloak.

“Walk,” the guard behind her barked.

Simon clenched his fist. There was no need for the guard to be harsh to her, now in her last moments.  She lowered her face and carried on.

Simon motioned the squad to walk towards the execution grounds. The seven men dragged their feet through the sticky mud, cowls over their head.  He cursed the rain in silence.

They soon reached the head high stone wall. He ordered the firing squad to take position and motioned for the guard to guide the beast to the wooden pole. Most had to be tied against the lichen covered stalk. Few braved death, taking advantage of the last chance to show courage afforded to them. She signaled she would go on her own; her light steps barely disturbed the mud behind her. Simon struggled with the impulse to call this off. It was within his power. He could plead with the prison master to make sure they had the right person.

What if this is a mistake? How could I live with myself afterwards?

Cloak still in hands, she searched for a place amidst the mud to put it down. Simon bit the inside of his lip as they locked eyes. She held her cloak out towards him. He moved to take it; he had to. As Simon approached, he caught a glimmer of a smile in her lips. A sudden flash of light blinded him.

All was darkness, his breath the only sound. He heard his own voice; it was not coming out of him…

“All arm…” the voice said, “…Fire”. The sound of crossbows releasing their load followed.

He hit the ground.


BIO: Ilias Stroulias likes to write fiction when he’s not braving the currents of the economic downturn in Greece where he lives with his wife and two children.